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Adrian Peterson said he spent a lot of time in the offseason studying films of last season's Vikings games, and he came to the conclusion that he -- not his offensive line nor the opposing defenses -- was responsible for some of his poorer performances.
The 2007 first-round draft choice rushed for 1,341 yards and scored 13 touchdowns in 14 games to earn NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. However, he slowed down after his first eight games, which included performances of 224 rushing yards at Chicago and an NFL record of 296 against San Diego.
He suffered a knee injury the following week at Green Bay that sidelined him two games. Peterson then rushed for 116 yards against Detroit upon his return, but over the final four weeks of the season he had trouble generating much offense, gaining a total of 144 yards on 54 carries over four games, including only 3 yards on 14 carries against San Francisco.
"I studied the film and I was always amazed on a lot of plays, it was really me," Peterson said. "It wasn't the offensive line not getting a block or anything like that, or anything they were doing really. It was really me kind of hurting myself."
After watching the film, Peterson concluded he simply needed to be more patient and be in sync with the offensive line.
"I was able to take a lot from those tapes," he said. "Just being more patient and learning to play up the gut more."
After all of the accolades last year, he said he doesn't feel any pressure to produce in his second NFL season.
"Well, it's no pressure for me, to be honest, because I'm harder on myself than anybody; that's really how I do things," Peterson said. "I set my goals high and the expectations high for myself, and I work hard at accomplishing those goals."
Peterson didn't carry the ball against Seattle last Friday, but he will Saturday against the Ravens in Baltimore. It will be interesting to see how they defense him and how he does.Persuaded brother
Credit Mike Sherels for persuading his brother Marcus to turn down several Division I schools so he could walk on to the Gophers football team. Now, Marcus Sherels has earned a scholarship after proving to be one of the team's best kick returners, and the Rochester John Marshall product will get a shot on defense as a cornerback.
"Coming from southeastern Minnesota, we don't get the exposure of the Big Ten schools, and I think I had a lot to do with his decision," said Mike Sherels, who was a linebacker and senior captain for the Gophers last season. "He came to me and he said, 'Do you think that I'm able to play?' And looking at the class, I thought that he would come in as a corner originally out of high school. He had never played receiver before, and he asked me, 'Where would I stack up among your corners?' And I said, 'You could start, you could be a great Big Ten cornerback,' from what I had seen, from what we had coming out of my freshman class, I would have put him right up at the top of those guys."
Marcus played wide receiver last season for the Gophers, catching three passes for 46 yards and one touchdown. "They played him at wide receiver because we had a dire need for wide receivers at the time and he was very athletic. He's got the highest vertical on the team, and he's one of the faster kids on the team," Mike said.
Regarding the Gophers' rough 2007 season, Mike Sherels said the majority of players were big supporters of first-year coach Tim Brewster despite the 1-11 record. "Within any team there's always going to be some dissenters, but it's all about who the majority is listening to. I think that 99.9 percent of the people have bought into Brewster's plan," said Sherels, who was fourth on the team with 55 tackles last year, including 2 1/2 sacks.
Mike Sherels had three defensive coordinators and four linebacker coaches during his college career -- and the Gophers have another defensive coordinator this year, with Ted Roof replacing Everett Withers. I think that is one reason defense has been the weak spot for the Gophers football team for a long time. But Mike, who wants to coach someday, considers it a plus.
One of the Gophers' problems last year was the inability of the players to learn the complicated offenses and defenses under their new coordinators.
"It was a combination of learning complex new systems -- we went from a very simplified offense and defense to a very, very complicated offense and defense," Mike Sherels said. "Couple that with the fact that we had more young players in certain positions." In fact, Roof has said he has aimed to keep things simple, while keeping much of Withers' terminology in place.
Mike Sherels is convinced that the Gophers will be a much improved team this year, because the returning players will have learned a lot following last year's one-victory campaign.Jottings
It was a very unhappy Twins clubhouse a year ago when the team traded second baseman Luis Castillo to the Mets. Well, Castillo, who re-signed with New York for $25 million over four years in the offseason, was put on the disabled list July 3 because of a strained left hip flexor, and he left his rehabilitation assignment at Class A Port St. Lucie, Fla., because of what the Mets called a "personal situation." While healthy this season, Castillo has played in 68 games, hitting .261 with three homers, 26 RBI and 12 stolen bases.
Twins righthander Kevin Slowey, who beat the Yankees on Wednesday, was 0-4 with a 5.49 ERA in his first four starts this year, giving up six home runs in 19 2/3 innings. Since then, starting with a six-inning outing at Detroit on May 23, he is 9-4 with a 3.61 ERA over 15 starts, including nine homers in 94 2/3 innings.
Twins left fielder Delmon Young, who hit two big home runs against the Yankees, is still behind his pace from a year ago with Tampa Bay. Through Aug. 13 last year, he hit .296 with nine homers, 63 RBI and 29 doubles in 118 games. After Aug. 13 this year, he is hitting .290 with seven homers, 52 RBI and 21 doubles in 112 games. One thing he has done more is steal bases; he has 13 this year, compared to seven at the same point in 2007.
LaTroy Hawkins might have solved the Twins bullpen problems the way he has pitched since the Astros traded for him after he was designated for assignment by the Yankees. In seven games for Houston, the ex-Twins righthander has given up only one hit and two walks while striking out nine in four innings. He has one save and won Thursday's game against San Francisco after striking out the only batter he faced.